Most of the state was blessed with rain this past week, and that, combined with our mild temperatures, has many of us starting to think about spring. It is too early to plant most spring crops, but it is a great time to prepare the soil for planting, to create flower beds and to plan spring gardening activities.
Although it is best to wait until mid-February to plant most of the cool season and leafy vegetables, you can start planting seed potatoes, onion sets and onion plants. Visit your local nursery or garden center to select the potato and onion varieties suited for your area and to get detailed planting instructions if you are new to the vegetable gardening experience.
This is a good time to take soil tests and prepare your soil for spring. Good soil is the best foundation for gardening success. You can get your soil tested for a very reasonable price at an Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service office.
Dig several holes 6 inches deep in the area you want to test, and collect about a pint of soil from those holes to be tested. You may want to take separate tests in your front lawn, a front flower bed and a backyard vegetable garden. These tests will allow you to target your fertilizer activities and avoid overapplying or wasting your fertilizer.
You often will save more than the cost of the soil tests by being able to select the right fertilizer and applying just the right amounts when you get ready to fertilize. This is a good practice for the environment and your pocketbook.
This is an excellent season to remove all the dead plant tops from last year's annuals and to spade, till or work the soil in your flower beds as you prepare for spring. It is a great time to mark and dig new flower beds while removing all the old grass roots. Whether creating a new flower bed or preparing an existing bed, you may add and mix more sphagnum peat moss, composted bark, composted cotton burr hulls or other organic matter to improve your flower beds.
This is the season when gardeners can get overwhelmed with seed company catalogs, Internet mailers and links, garden shows and other material to get us longing for spring. It is fun to look through these materials, the pretty pictures, the fun catalog copy and to identify some new plants, seeds or bulbs you want to try this season.
I encourage you to study these resources and then visit your local nursery or garden center to try to buy these new items locally when possible. Sometimes there will be plants that just aren't available locally that you may need to access over the Internet or through a catalog. Locally grown plants will usually adapt better, and your local nurseryman often can recommend even better varieties or share gardening tips that will increase your chances of gardening success.
Rodd Moesel serves on the Oklahoma Horticulture Industrial Council and the Oklahoma State University agriculture dean's advisory committee. He is a former president of the Oklahoma Greenhouse Growers. Email garden and landscape questions to rmoesel@